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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Asparagus and Arugula Risotto


Risotto is more of a winterish meal, but you can make it springy with beautiful green vegetables! I made this risotto a couple weeks ago for dinner and Greg and I loved it. The risotto has a great flavor and texture, and it is loaded with healthy green things. Since asparagus is more in season now, it is less pricey at the grocery store. When I went to the Outer Banks, NC for spring break (in March), I ended up paying over 10 dollars for a pound of asparagus. Note to self - when a price isn't marked on something in the grocery store, it means it is way too expensive to buy!

I think you'll love this risotto recipe. It's not too filling and it's completely vegetarian, but it is also entirely satisfying. It's a great meal to celebrate spring, which I think is finally here to stay. Happy Spring to all!

Recipe for Asparagus & Arugula Risotto 

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups of chopped chives
3 basil leaves, torn into smallish pieces
1/4 tsp. of dried fennel seed
1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice
2/3 cup of white cooking wine
1 lb of asparagus, tough ends removed & then cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
A handful or two of Arugula leaves
3 Tbsp. of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. of kosher salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Finely grated Parmesan cheese (for topping)

DIRECTIONS:
Heat the broth in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Once it is hot, leave it on the burner but adjust the heat to the lowest setting.

Heat the olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of butter in a large stockpot set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the chives, basil, and fennel seed. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add in the Arborio rice, and stir consistently for 1 minute, until it is coated with the oil and butter. Pour in the cooking wine and cook on low, stirring frequently, until it is fully absorbed. Ladle the hot broth mixture into the rice mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time. After each addition of broth, stir constantly and allow it to cook and absorb into the rice. This process should take about 20 minutes total.

When you are about halfway finished with the broth additions, cook the asparagus. Put asparagus in a saucepan with boiling water and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Immediately drain asparagus in colander and rinse with very cold water. (Make sure you are continuing to do the broth additions while you are cooking the asparagus).

When you are just about finished with the broth additions, add in the lemon zest, arugula leaves, salt, pepper, and asparagus to the risotto. Add in the remaining amount of hot broth into the risotto. Once  the broth is all gone and it is fully cooked into the mixture, add in the remaining tablespoon of butter, cream cheese, and lemon juice. Stir until ingredients are fully incorporated. Serve risotto in bowls. Top each bowl with extra black pepper and some finely grated Parmesan cheese.

*Makes approximately 6 - 8 servings of risotto. 

Recipe Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Looking for more risotto recipes? Try the Butternut Squash Risotto

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Best French Onion Soup in the World!


I have ALWAYS loved french onion soup. I think I love it so much because it comes with a mountain of cheese on top of it - which I always considered the best part. I actually thought the bowl of french onion soup from TGIFridays was really good, because it was loaded with so much cheese. But looking back, I think once the cheese was gone, I didn't actually eat any of the soup! When I saw a recipe for french onion soup on Annie's Eats a couple years back, I knew I wanted to try it. At that time, I had just started getting into cooking, so I thought the recipe was really difficult to make. It turned out AMAZING, but it was a lot of work. Greg didn't think he would like it, because he has never been a fan. I remember he thought it was one of the best soups he had ever tasted (and this coming from someone who doesn't like french onion soup). I'm thankful Greg is willing to try foods that he doesn't think he will like, because it's always neat when he is pleasantly surprised.

It had been quite some time since I made the french onion soup. I decided to make it a few weeks ago when the weather was really cold, so I went out to buy the ingredients. Things came up and I was never able to make the soup before Greg and I left to go to the beach for spring break that felt like winter break. Luckily when I got home, the leeks I had bought were still good. I made the soup and this time it was so much easier. I can't even figure out why I would have thought it was hard before, but it must just be because I was still a total beginner in the kitchen. The thing that it is so great about this recipe is that the flavor of the broth and onion really stands out. It's not the cheese that is the shining star in this soup (even though I would never leave it out). The entire bowl of soup gets eaten, and it's so good that it leaves me wanting to eat even more! So yes, the weather is slightly warmer, but I'd still make the soup again before fall. I don't want to wait as long as I did to make it again. I think you'll love this recipe and I hope you find it as satisfying as I do. Enjoy! 

Recipe for The Best French Onion Soup in the World

INGREDIENTS:
For the broth
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced thin
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 tsp. of sugar
2 leeks, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1 1/4 cup of beef broth
1/4 cup of dry red wine
2 sprigs of fresh Italian leaf parsley
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the toasty & cheesy topping
Slices of french bread
Slices of high quality Parmesan or Romano cheese

DIRECTIONS:
For the broth
Put the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot set over medium heat. Once the butter has completely melted, add in the slices of onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes. Then add in the leeks and sugar. Continue to cook and stir, until the onions are caramelized (about 12 - 15 minutes). Add the pressed garlic in and cook for 1 minute. Add in the chicken broth, beef broth, and red wine. After you add in the red wine, scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in the sprigs of parsley and thyme. Stir in the salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 25 - 30 minutes. Once if has finished cooking, remove the parsley and thyme from the pot. Sprinkle with extra salt and pepper to taste.

Adjust your oven so the rack is in the second to highest position in the oven. Preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and place them on a sturdy baking sheet. Top the soups with slices of bread and cheese. I usually try to cover the entire top with bread and layer the cheese on top of the bread slices. Put the baking sheet with the bowls into the oven under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbly (watch it the entire time, it should take only a few minutes). Remove from oven, let rest a couple minutes, then serve!

Recipe Adapted from Annie's Eats 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lemon Bar Blondies



I ate this lemon bar blondie for dinner last night, and I am totally okay with it. Do you support "dessert for dinner?" I know I totally do! It was a pretty low calorie dinner too, since each lemon bar is only 200 - 250 calories (depending on whether or not you cut 9 or 12 squares). I think I'm going to eat dessert for dinner more often. Oh yeah, and it's healthy, because lemons have Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B5!

I made these lemon bar blondies last weekend. My parents came down for dinner (well actually, my mom made dinner and brought it to my house), and I wanted to make a dessert for my dad's birthday. At first I thought I'd make a cheesecake, but then I realized I didn't have anything for a crust. Then I decided that I wanted to make lemon bars...but that also required a crust that I couldn't make. What was I to do? I searched the web for easy lemony desserts, and I came across this tasty and delicious recipe.

The combination of zesty and sweet in this dessert is awesome. The lemon bar blondies are the perfect dessert (or dinner) - they aren't too rich or sinful but they definitely hit the spot. Enjoy!

Recipe for Lemon Bar Blondies 

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick of butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup of flour, sifted
2 tsp. of cream
1 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 baking pan. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and use an electric hand mixer to beat on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy (about 3 minutes). Add in the eggs and mix well. Add in the 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice and mix. Stir in the flour and set the hand mixer on low speed to mix the flour in until it is fully incorporated. Use a spoon to stir in the lemon zest and cream. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread so it is evenly distributed. Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Once they are finished cooking, remove from oven and cool completely.

For the lemon glaze
INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp. of butter
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS:
Put the butter into a small saucepan and set it over medium-low heat. Once the butter is completely melted, take off heat and immediately stir in the powdered sugar. Stir quickly, then pour in the lemon juice. Stir until it is completely smooth, adding more lemon juice if needed. Pour the hot glaze over the completely cooled lemon bars. While the glaze is still warm, zest 1 lemon over it, allowing the lemon zest to fall on top of the glaze. Cover the pan with foil and place in the fridge until the glaze hardens. Once the glaze has hardened, the lemon bars can be cut into 9 or 12 squares.

Recipe Adapted from: Ashely Marie's Kitchen
Each lemon bar blondie has approximately 200 - 250 calories. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tasty Turkey Burgers with Sundried Tomato, Basil & Parsley



What a beautiful weekend it was in Maryland! I hope it was nice where you are too. On Saturday night, I really wanted to make french onion soup for dinner, but Greg said it was grilling weather, not soup weather. He said he wanted hot dogs. I said I wouldn't eat hot dogs for dinner, but I told him I would  make one of our favorite turkey burger recipes. I headed out to the store to get the meat, and at the store I asked the meat counter for 1/2 pound of white turkey and 1/2 pound of dark turkey. When I went to make the burgers, I found out that the store gave me white turkey AND ground chicken. What? It was busy at the counter, so someone else was probably wondering what happened to their chicken! I ended up making it with the chicken, but for the purpose of the recipe, it will be left out. These turkey burgers are juicy and flavorful and amazing. They are pretty much the best turkey burger I have ever had. Serve them with chips or fries. Enjoy!

Recipe for Tasty Turkey Burgers with Sundried Tomato, Basil & Parsley

INGREDIENTS:
Burgers
1/2 pound of white ground turkey meat
1/2 pound of dark ground turkey meat
8 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced small
2 Tbsp. of the oil from the sun dried tomato jar
2 Tbsp. of fresh basil, torn in smallish pieces
2 Tbsp. of fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp. of Italian Panko-style breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper
Fixings
Your favorite type of bun
Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
Baby Spinach leaves
Sliced cherry tomatoes
Basil leaves
Garlic Mayo
4 Tbsp. of mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. of lemon juice
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Place the ground turkey, sun dried tomatoes, sun dried tomato oil, basil leaves, parsley leaves, pressed garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper into a large bowl. Use a spoon or fork to gently incorporate the ingredients together. Form into 4 even-sized patties. Place patties on a plate, make a small indent in the middle of each patty, cover and put in the fridge for 1 hour.
Before starting the grill, make the garlic mayo. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together well. Cover and set aside or put in fridge until ready for use.
Preheat a grill to 500 degrees. Place the patties on the grill and cook for about 5 - 7 minutes on each side. They should be firm and browned when they are ready to take off the grill.  Remove from grill, check center of thickest patty to make sure they are done (if not, put back on grill for a few minutes), and assemble burgers.
Spread the garlic mayo on each side of the bun. Place a turkey burger on the bottom half of the bun and top with a piece of mozzarella cheese. Top the cheese with a few baby spinach leaves, a piece of basil, and a few slices of cherry tomato.
Recipe makes 4 turkey burgers

Recipe Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Nutella Sandwich Cookies with Sea Salt & Cacao Nibs



So - I made a batch of cookies last Thursday night. It was my first time baking cookies in a good while. Greg and I had plans to meet our friends for pizza up at my parents' house last Friday night. Our friends said they would bring a salad, so I decided I'd make a dessert.

A few weeks ago my coworkers and I planned and participated in a dessert day. One of my friends brought in Nutella sea salt cookies, and they were pretty amazing. She told me the original recipe called for making them sandwich cookies stuffed with Nutella, but she had ran out of time when she made them the night before. I asked her where she got the recipe from because I knew I wanted to make them. I also knew I wanted to put them over the top by stuffing 'em!

I made the Nutella cookies last Thursday night. It was my first time making a sandwich cookie, and it was kind of exciting. I called my friends to confirm plans, and sadly, their son came down with the stomach bug that day, so they had to cancel on us. What was I going to do with all the cookies? Greg said "the cookies are okay." I think he was mad at me for making them or something, because I thought they were better than okay. I brought some to work yesterday to confirm. One of my coworkers said to me "Okay, first of all, your husband is INSANE. Second of all, these are one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted." She then went on to tell me she does not even like Nutella very much, but she loved the cookies. Others who tried them also thought they were pretty incredible. I know I ate a lot of them myself yesterday, but hopefully not too many,  since the container was empty by the end of the day.

They are pretty amazing. You'll love them if you love Nutella and you'll love them if you love chocolate. If you don't love one or the other, you are insane just like my husband (JK)! Enjoy.

Recipe for Chocolate Nutella Sandwich Cookies with Sea Salt & Cacao Nibs

INGREDIENTS:
For the cookie
1/2 cup of dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. of quick oats, such as Quaker quick oats
Just under 1 tsp. of baking soda
Just over 1/4 tsp. of baking powder
A pinch of coarse sea salt
1 1/2 cups of sugar in the raw (or granulated sugar)
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 Tbsp. of Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 egg
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
Flour, for pressing dough
For the filling 
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of Nutella
3 Tbsp. of cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS:
For the cookies
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 baking pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Combine the cocoa powder, flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed to beat together the sugar, softened butter, and Nutella. Beat until the mixture is smooth and ingredients are well incorporated. Add in the egg, and beat on low until it mixed in. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture. Beat on low speed until just incorporated, then add in the rest of the dry ingredients and beat until well incorporated.
Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up about 1 Tbsp. of the mixture and to shape into a ball. Drop each scoop onto the prepared baking sheets, placing them about 1-inch apart.
Very lightly butter the bottom of a glass that is about 2-inches in diameter. Dust the bottom of the glass with flour. Press the bottom of the glass down onto a mound of dough until it is flattened into a circle. Dust the bottom of the glass in more flour as needed, continuing to use it to flatten all of the mounds of dough. Then sprinkle each with desired amount of coarse sea salt. Put a baking sheet in the oven and cook for 9 minutes. Since they do not require much baking time, I just put one cookie sheet at a time in the oven. Let cookies cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the filling
Put butter and Nutella into a medium bowl. Beat the softened butter and Nutella together with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed until well blended. Stir in the cacao nibs. Once cookies have cooled completed, stuff them with the Nutella filling. Spread about 1 Tbsp. of the mixture onto one cookie, then put another cookie on top and lightly press down to make a sandwich. Yum - it will be the best sandwich you have ever had!

*Recipe makes 36 non-sandwich cookies & makes 18 sandwich cookies. Cookies can be cut in half* Store cookies in an airtight container - they also stay fresher if stored in the fridge. 

Recipe Adapted from: The Faux Martha

update: I made the cookies again & this time Greg said he thought they were really good...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Chicken Sausages & Goat Cheese


Mmm, pasta with pesto! I think most people enjoy any meal where pasta and pesto are involved - I know I do. Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but I prefer to make my pestos with almonds or walnuts. Don't get me wrong, I love the flavor of pine nuts - but they are pricier than the other nuts and they aren't as healthy. I also have a slight allergy to pine nuts! Walnuts and almonds are both loaded with protein & they are SUPER foods. Score! The pesto recipe I'm sharing today uses walnuts.

I came across this recipe in the April 2013 edition of Glamour magazine. Over my spring break, I was able to catch up with all of the latest beauty & fashion trends that I will never be able to pull off. Luckily making pasta isn't trendy - it's here to stay - and it's something I can definitely pull off with successful results! The recipe said to use basil with the arugula, but since I didn't have any basil on hand (and neither did the grocery store), I used parsley. I also added chicken sausages and goat cheese to the recipe and it made for a delicious and satisfying meal. It actually made for 8 delicious &  satisfying meals last week - I made it for dinner Sunday and Greg and I ate it for lunch throughout the week.

I think this meal would be fabulous even without the sausage, so leave it out if you want to go (or if you are) vegetarian. Enjoy! 

Recipe for Penne Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Sausage & Goat Cheese

INGREDIENTS:
For the pesto
2/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup of finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese (use a microplane to grate)!
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. of lemon zest (use a microplane to zest)!
A pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
A pinch of coarse sea salt
2 1/2 cups of baby arugula
3 Tbsp. of parsley leaves
1/2 - 1 Tbsp. water (to add in for a smoother pesto)

For the pasta/sausages/assembling
12 ounces mild Italian chicken sausage links, sliced 1/4-inch thick (omit to make vegetarian)
1 16-ounce box of penne pasta (I used brown rice pasta)
1Tbsp. of sea salt
Baby arugula
Crumbled goat cheese
Lightly toasted walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Put the walnuts, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, black pepper, lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt, baby arugula, and parsley into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and smooth. To make it smoother, add in 1/2 - 1 Tbsp. of water and pulse. Set pesto aside.
Cook the chicken sausages according to package directions. While sausages are cooking, put the 1 Tbsp. of salt into a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Once sausages are done cooking, remove from heat and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente (follow package directions). Drain the water from the pasta. Pour pasta into a large bowl. Mix in the pesto sauce, a little at a time, stirring after each addition, until it is all gone. Add in the chicken sausages and stir. Divide pasta onto plates. Top each plate of pasta with baby arugula, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and freshly ground black pepper.
*Recipe makes 6 - 10 servings*

Recipe Adapted from Glamour Magazine - April 2013, courtesy of Zahra Tangorra

Other recipe(s) like this one: Pasta with Red Grapes and Chicken Sausage 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mexican Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette


I have been wanting to post this salad recipe for a long time now, but the weather always just seemed too cold for a sunny-looking salad like this one! Well, I can't hold off anymore - just like I couldn't hold back from wearing open-toed heels today, even though the high barely reached 50 degrees. Where are you, Spring? You can stop hiding and come out now! Okay, back to the salad. This salad is like one I had at Nordstrom Cafe years ago. I posted the recipe several weeks ago for the cilantro-lime vinaigrette that tasted similar to the dressing on the Nordstrom salad. This salad is super easy to make and it makes a great light meal or side. If you want to spice it up a little, you can toss in 1/2 Tbsp. of chipotle ranch dressing. It doesn't need it, but it adds a nice kick.

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
for Mexican Salad
You'll love the combination of corn, tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco, and  toasted pumpkin seeds in this Mexican Salad. I think it would work well stuffed in a tortilla for a tasty lunch wrap. If you are craving meat, top it with some shredded chicken. Enjoy!

Recipe for Mexican Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups of chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce
1/3 cup of frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 Avocado, peeled, pitted, & sliced
20 - 25 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
4 Tbsp. of crumbled Queso Fresco cheese (Mexican cheese)
3 Tbsp. of raw pumpkin seeds, lightly salted and toasted
1/4 cup of cilantro-lime vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. of chipotle ranch dressing (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Divide lettuce onto two plates. Top the lettuce with the corn, sliced avocado, cherry or grape tomato halves, crumbled queso fresco cheese, and lightly salted and toasted pumpkin seeds. Top each salad with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of cilantro-lime vinaigrette, and 1/2 Tbsp. of chipotle ranch dressing, if using. Sprinkle on a little freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Serve & enjoy.

*Recipe serves two*

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Updated "About Me" Post


I'm a wife, mom, teacher, and friend. I love to cook and bake in my spare time.
This blog is a way for me to keep a record of the recipes that my family and I love. I hope you enjoy the recipes that are shared.
-Beth